LOVE AND LITERATURE: GONE GIRL

The 2012 novel Gone Girl is one of my favourite books. Anyone who has known me since 2014 knows that the book, and its 2014 film adaptation is one of the pillars of me as a person. I have always said that Gone Girl is not only my favourite movie to watch on Valentines, but I now regard it as my favourite romantic movie. In that, I mean it is a pivotal movie on love and relationships. The ideas and assumptions about love, and of what it means in a modern world is important. Refreshing especially in the over-romanticised and idealised depictions of love from la la land, to a star is born.

I have always considered the crowning accomplishment of Gone Girl, in all its forms, to be honest and raw.

As a Black British woman, I have always been around an atmosphere that views love as a permanent and unconditional state. The general media reaction to cheating and abuse scandals reinforces this as it imposes people to allow and condone ‘imperfections’ in love.

I believe that Flynn and Fincher are particularly reticent of how wrong this is. And I believe that, as Amy believes, love should require conditions. Love should be focused around perfection and hoping to be the best person you can be, for the sake of that relationship. Through the narrative of Gone Girl, the central issue is presented as the imperfections and the faults within Nick and Amy’s relationship, but more specifically it is presented as the failure to be ‘the very best’ of themselves. This relates to Nick’s failure to be the witty and clever trophy husband Amy wants, and of Amy failing to be the enigmatic cool girl Nick admired. The moment the relationship sours is when both parties stop the facade, yes, but more importantly it is the point at which they cannot any longer attempt to be their best. In full, they settle and fall short of the conditions of their original love.

I understand that this is a cynical and reductive view of love and a transactional view of relationships, but the truth is that Nick and Amy are the perfect and idealised picture of love while they meet the conditions: her a vibrant cool girl were now she is a “ new, brittle, bitter Amy.”, and him a witty everyman type.

Among the cynicism of Gone Girl, I also appreciate the comforting and simple romanticism of stories like Moonlight (2016) and the Korean romantic-thriller The Handmaiden (2017) but the brutal and cutting honesty of Gone girl gives it pride of place in my personal rankings. It portrays love as a harsh and cold thing, more so than the world would like to expose. The harsh truth is that love makes you better, as Flynn and Fincher show. Nick likes himself more when he’s with Amy, when he is the ideal man for her. And Amy enjoys the facade of ‘cool girl’ with Nick.

However parasitic and toxic their love, the narrative takes point to stress how perfectly suited they are, how their love binds. And that when they are trying to be their best, they work. At the climax of the film, a confrontation between the two sees Rosamund Pike (Oscar worthy!) exclaim “ The only time you liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this b**** might like”. This, I think, is the crux of my argument. Love should be as unselfish as possible, giving your best because that’s what your partner deserves. And it would be wrong to say that love is not at the centre of the relationship here. Amy’s actions (Desi’s murder to frame him for her ‘abduction’ and return to Nick) show that she buys into him as her idealised partner, and that she retains (an albeit twisted) love for him.

The act of her rejigging her plan, cancelling her planned suicide to absolve Nick and signify her forgiveness is reminiscent of one of my favourite quotes about love as a transactional duty to your partner:

Where some read Gone girl as a cautionary tale, I read it as a manifesto on what love in its bare bones honesty should be, a union of two people working their best, to be the best, for each other. If striving for perfection for your partner’s sake isn’t love, then what is?

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